Published Jan 28, 2020If the optimistic title of Squarepusher's latest record, Be Up a Hello, doesn't speak to its playful nature, then the briefest of listens will. One thing that's obvious from the outset is that he's quite clearly having tons of fun. A lot of that is due to the fact that Tom Jenkinson has decided to return to the equipment with which he started his career in the early '90s.
After a slipping on some ice during a visit to Norway at the start of 2018, Jenkinson was stuck with his arm in cast. Since tinkering with drum machines and synthesizers is a hell of lot easier with a stiff limb, than, say, playing bass, that's what he looked to for a creative outlet. What started out as finding some comfort in old gear eventually turned into a fully formed album.
The result, as you might imagine from using back-in-the-day equipment, is a record that will remind many of his older output. It sounds an awful lot slicker though, and while Be Up a Hello might wink to that era, it's a different demon altogether. It still sounds like overly wired machines trying to eat each other, but they're polished, fresh-sounding and in a damn chipper mood.
Opener "Oberlove," which features some fretless guitar (the only live instrumentation on the album), quivers about the place with jaunty synth lines, while "Hitsonu" plays like a soundtrack to the tricky adventures of some squeaky woodland creature. On the darker side of things are tracks like "Vortrack" and "Speedcrank," both of which scream past at ridiculous speed (around 170 bpm), with the latter sounding borderline breakcore at times.
Whether you can consider this old-school, new-school, or somewhere in between scarcely matters. What we have here is yet another brain-melting album from an artist who refuses to stand still. (Warp)